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Friday, January 4, 2013

Mixing clip art with journalism

To see the photo and story, click link.

As a former newspaper photographer, I prefer photographer to photojournalist, I am amazed at the clip art masquerading as news photography found in papers today. Surfing the Net, I came upon this example of clip art illustrating an opinion piece published in my local paper.

Why do I prefer photographer? Well, much of my life's work was spent shooting pictures to be shims on a page. I shot visual cliches, medical researchers holding petri dishes in front of their faces.

Today, newspapers no longer even pretend that the photo running with a story actually reflects reality. At least back when I was working we tried to run pictures of real people, often those in the story, even if they were posed doing silly stuff. Now, a clip art photo of two models pretending to be students illustrates an opinion piece on journalism and correctness. The clip art agency is given credit under the photo.

You know, when you really think about it, maybe today's clearly faux news images are more honest than yesterday's.

I find this very sad. For years I ran a photojournalism seminar and brought shooters like Edie Adams to London to speak. Adams was a fine photojournalist and I always hoped that the newspaper editors and photographers attending my seminars would return to their newsrooms invigorated. They didn't. They found the seminars entertaining, not enlightening.

This not to say that all newspaper photographs are phony, they aren't, but too many are and it often makes it impossible to tell the real from the faux. A professional plumber always installs a toilet that functions, a professional electrician always installs a light switch that works but a professional photojournalist cannot make the same claims about his/her photojournalism.

And if you do not find anything wrong with using clip art to illustrate news, using pictures shot well before a story was even a glimmer in an assignment editor's eye. Think about this: the same attitude often colours news stories. Reporters bring back stories from the field that confirm the beliefs that they held long before they were given the assignment. Think "crack babies."

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